By Michael Flanagan
Hometown Weekly Sports Editor
Going back 17 years, if you said at some point in the distant future that Erron Kinney would be a chief, you’d likely believe he’d be spending his Sundays at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City.
But, it turns out that that would not be the case.
Snap back to reality in 2017 and Kinney, who played tight end for the Tennessee Titans from 2000-2006, has become a different kind of chief - the type that requires the former NFL pass catcher to be in his game suit 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, rather than for three hours during 16 Sundays in the fall, as well as a weeks' worth of practice time.
On July 1, Erron Kinney took over the role as the new fire chief in Sherborn, 11 years after playing his final down in the NFL in 2006. Kinney does not have local ties to Sherborn, as he was awarded the job after applying for the position via his past occupational setting in Mt. Juliet, Tennessee, where he served as a firefighter for the last nine years and even worked his way up to chief in 2013.
Kinney says that one of his life goals was to play in the NFL, but he has always had a passion for fighting fires.
“I’ve always wanted to be a firefighter,” said Kinney. “I’ve been involved with it ever since I was young. I started when I was 13 in my hometown in Virginia and stayed involved while in college at Florida and throughout my NFL career.”
Kinney was a standout receiver/tight end at Patrick Henry High School in Ashland, Virginia, where he played alongside future New York Jets defensive tackle, Damien Woody. Both Woody and Kinney helped lead their team to the Virginia state championship in 1994.
Following high school, Kinney accepted a scholarship to attend the University of Florida to play football. Kinney redshirted his freshman season in 1995, as he watched the Gators win the SEC (Southeastern Conference) and fall 62-20 to Nebraska in the Fiesta Bowl (national championship game).
As a redshirt-freshman in 1996, Kinney caught three passes for 40 yards as the Gators went back to the national championship game for the second straight season, but this time against arch-rival and top-ranked Florida State at the Sugar Bowl (New Orleans). The Gators put a hurting on their in-state rivals on the grandest of stages that night down in the bayou, downing the Seminoles 52-20 for the outright national title.
As a redshirt sophomore in 1997, the Gators entered the season with the No. 2 ranking in the preseason AP Poll behind only Penn State. Kinney nabbed 12 receptions for 162 yards and a touchdown, and helped lead the Gators to a 10-2 season. Florida concluded the 1997 season with a 21-6 victory over Penn State in the Citrus Bowl (Orlando) on January 1, 1998, and finished the year with the No. 4 ranking in the final AP Poll.
During his junior season in 1998, Kinney caught eight balls for 79 yards and three touchdowns as the Gators again posted a 10-2 record including an Orange Bowl victory over Syracuse, finishing the season with the No. 5 ranking in the AP.
As a senior in 1999, Kinney was featured as Florida’s No. 1 tight end, and it showed with his stat line of 16 receptions for 226 yards and a touchdown throughout the course of the season. Late-season losses to eventual national champion Florida State (30-24) and to Alabama (34-7) in the SEC championship game kept Florida out of the national championship picture. Kinney finished his collegiate career in the Citrus Bowl on New Year’s Day in 2000, as the Gators fell to Plaxico Burress and Michigan State 37-34. Florida finished the season 9-4 and as the No. 12 team in the AP.
Following the loss to Sparty in Orlando, Kinney declared himself eligible for the 2000 NFL Draft, leaving Gainesville with 39 career receptions for 507 yards, five touchdowns, and averaging 13 yards per catch. More importantly, he left UF with his degree in elementary education.
The Tennessee Titans, who had just gone to the Super Bowl and lost to the St. Louis Rams the previous season in 1999, traded up into the third round with the Philadelphia Eagles and snagged Kinney with the No. 68 overall pick on day one of the 2000 Draft.
As a rookie in 2000, Kinney started in nine of Tennessee’s 16 games, hauling in 19 catches for 197 yards and a touchdown. Kinney’s lone touchdown of the 2000 season came against Pittsburgh and ended up being the game-winning score. The Titans finished the regular season 13-3, but fell in the Division Round to the eventual Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens.
Kinney says that the touchdown against the Steelers is definitely one of his favorite moments from his time in the NFL.
“There’s a lot of memories I have, but that touchdown against the Steelers definitely sticks out as one of my favorite moments as a Titan.”
In 2001, Kinney started in 12 games for the Titans, catching 25 balls for 262 yards and a touchdown as Tennessee finished the season 7-9.
In 2002, the former Gator started in seven of Tennessee’s games, catching 13 balls for 173 yards. The Titans finished the regular season 11-5 and won the AFC South, earning the No. 2 seed in the AFC playoffs as well as a first-round bye. Tennessee took down Pittsburgh (34-31) in overtime in the Divisional round but eventually lost to Oakland (41-24) in the AFC Championship game the following week.
Kinney started in all 16 regular season games for Tennessee in 2003, catching 41 balls for 381 yards and three touchdowns while helping guide the Titans to a 12-4 record and the No. 5 seed in the AFC Playoffs. The Titans took down Baltimore (20-17) on the road in the Wild Card round but fell to eventual Super Bowl champ New England (17-14) in the Divisional round.
Injuries would cut Kinney’s season short in 2004, as the tight end started in all nine of the games he suited up for and caught 25 balls for 193 yards and three touchdowns.
Kinney bounced back the following season in 2005, putting up career numbers in receptions (55) and receiving yards (543) with two touchdowns in 14 games played. Tennessee finished the 2005 season 8-8 and Kinney would retire that offseason at the age of 28 to pursue a career as a firefighter.
As far as becoming accustomed to the local scenery here in Sherborn and getting along with the locals, Kinney says that he will stay true to his team, but also doesn’t mind cheering for the hometown Patriots whenever they aren’t facing his old squad.
“I’ve got to root for the Titans because I played there,” said Kinney. “But, I’ll root for the Patriots when they play anybody but the Titans.”
During his six seasons in the NFL, Kinney started in 68 of 83 total games played, caught 178 passes for 1,750 yards and crossed the goal line 10 times.
If Erron Kinney is any bit productive as a fire chief as he was in the NFL, the town of Sherborn will be in good hands.
For funny and incisive sports analysis, follow Mike Flanagan on his personal Twitter at @fLAno0, or read his blog at www.flannylive.wordpress.com.